How to Take Charge of Your Brand - What I Learned from the Ketchup War - Jo-Ann Carson

How to Take Charge of Your Brand – What I Learned from the Ketchup War

Branding is everything.

We all want people to recognize our brand, so they’ll buy our product when they see it. In a writer’s world that means our name. That is, my brand is my name: Jo-Ann Carson.

What does it stand for? What am I selling? What is my brand? – More on that later. First:

The All-Canadian Ketchup War

IMG_20160324_164206Once upon a time in the ketchup-loving country of Canada we could go to the local grocery store and buy several brands of the condiment. Everyone had their favorite. Some preferences were based on taste; others, on cost; and still others on politics. Recently the brand-politics heated up.

The choices of brand preference changed because:

  •  In June 2014 – Heinz shut down their factories in Leamington, Ontario and moved to the US. Local farmers were hit hard as were the people who had jobs in the factories.
  • The Twitterverse went wild and Canadians started changing brands.
  • In January 2016 – French’s announced that they would use only Leamington tomatoes in their ketchup
  • Again the Twitterers went wild.
  • In March 2016 –  Loblaws, which is one of Canada’s biggest food chains, started pulling French’s ketchup off it’s shelves. They said it wasn’t selling.
  • In March 2016 – a rumour circulated that a leaked Loblaws memo indicated  the real reason for pulling French’s was that they wanted to push their own brand, Presiden’ts Choice.
  • (there is also an Israeli Ketchup war,, but I won’t cover that here)

What did I gain from the Sticky Red mess?

  1. Consumers are loyal to their brand.
  2. But that loyalty can change.
  3. Brand loyalty is based on real and perceived attributes.
  4. Image is everything.

To show you how seriously we take ketchup here in Canada, I’ll share Stompin Tom’s famous song about, yes, ketchup:


so If I were a tomato condiment…

… and wanted to sell well in Canada, I would want to use Canadian tomatoes and package it in Canada with Canadian workers.

… and wanted to sell well in North America? I’d need to expand that following statement in as equitable a way as possible, or sell the Canadian tomato as being exceptional.

… and wanted to sell globally? I’d need to expand further, or sell it as a novel N.A. food.

… I wouldn’t want to lie or represent my product

But I’m not selling squished tomatoes. I’m selling me. So which tomato-war-factors similarly affect my brand?

  1. I need to develop characters and settings my readers relate to. Whether they are exotic or in my home town, they need to be defined in an easily accessible way.
  2. I need to write plots that pull people in and not let them go until the last page, give them the full-meal deal–love, suspense and lots of action.
  3. In short, I need to go for the heart. Chill it and Thrill it.

“Jo-Ann Carson” stands for Smart, Sexy Suspense.

How can you take charge of your brand?  Think about it. Try it on and adapt it until it moulds to who you are and what you write. Make it as honest and real.

shutterstock_104723360 (1)How about you? Do you have anything to say about tomatoes or brands?



My latest book, Ain’t Misbehaving’ is available on Amazon for pre-order.

AintMishehavin_CVR_LRGA naked alderman, a haunted trattoria and a love that can not be denied.


photos – all my own

5 Replies to “How to Take Charge of Your Brand – What I Learned from the Ketchup War”

  1. A timely topic for me as I’m revisiting my medical thriller. I’m comfortable with the chocolate cozies I write but this book is different. So, I’m left wanting to let readers of my work know this is not a chocolate cozy and hoping they’ll also give this a try. And I’ve set it in Canada but was seriously thinking I should change it to the U.S. And maybe, instead of self publishing I’ll see about an agent. Again, that could take the issue right out of my hands. There are pros and cons of being indie or having a publisher.

    I must say, you seem to be able to go from one series to another, so however you’re doing it (good writing) Kudos to you. And I’m seriously looking for whatever crumbs of advice I can find.

    1. Hi Pat,
      I’m trying to stick with “suspense” as my root brand so that I can write everything I want to write. My two series are quite different in flavor and now I’m starting a third: a post-apocalyptic thriller. I think I’m breaking all the rules and may pay dearly for it, at least in the short run. But I want to write, what I want to write.
      So yes, I feel your pain. I love your cozy, chocolate series, but I agree that it may pull a different audience from the medical thriller. On the other hand, it will still pull me, because I love your writing. It’s the clarity and the wit that I enjoy and that will be in both series. I figure I’m the kind of audience, you ultimately want, one that enjoys your writing in whatever genre. But I could be, and probably am, entirely wrong.
      Oh, wouldn’t it be nice, if someone had all the answers.
      Nora Roberts, writes as JD Robb, but that seems so cumbersome to me. Would you consider using a different name? That seems to be the traditional answer.
      Love chatting with you.
      Thanks for stopping by,

  2. I’ve thought about it but even Norah Roberts has apparently said maintaining two personas is a,lot of work. And she’s got way more back up and support than I do. I just don’t think I’ve got the time and energy to do that. But as long as I stick to indie publishing I’ll be able to make the cover and other elements quite different so I’m hoping that will work. Thank you for saying my writing has clarity and wit. I like to think so along with the chocolate and romance of course!

  3. I loved your tomato ketchup analogy. How can I brand my Regency writing as uniquely mine when there are some really big names writing Regency already. That’s the challenge. I did venture to Port Alberni yesterday and took part in a Regency dance class in anticipation of their Jane Austen days event this coming July. Perhaps the Centennial Belles of Port Alberni will help me define my brand. Fingers crossed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.